Monday, July 25, 2016

Raising Kaine

I watched the introduction of Sen. Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton’s running mate on Saturday and was duly impressed with him.  Up until that moment I hadn’t heard him speak much and considered him a safe, even boring, choice to fill the ticket out of necessity; after all, the ticket does need a vice president.

But here he was in Miami speaking Spanish to a largely Hispanic audience at Florida International University, talking about his background in serving as an attorney for civil rights cases, his work as a Catholic missionary in Honduras (which might give some folks pause but apparently it was the harmless kind of missionary work; the country is already pretty Catholic to begin with), and then working as a mayor, governor, and senator in Virginia.  He even has a son in the Marines.  He hit all the markers and did it in a modest but impressive way.

The best part was that neither he nor Hillary Clinton tried to scare the crap out of the country.  It was a positive, upbeat, and inclusive intro, and even if there are those who have some quibbles about his views on reproductive choice (personally against abortion but supports a woman’s right to choose), it’s hard to imagine a better choice at the moment not only to be a part of the campaign, but to help run the government after the election.  After all, that’s the whole point.

Seen It Before

Alexander Burns in the New York Times says that Donald Trump isn’t the first of his kind to run for president, but so far he’s the only one who’s gotten this far.

Since Mr. Trump first toyed with running for president in the 1980s, he has been hostile to foreign trade and immigration and suspicious of international organizations he views as impinging on America’s free hand. He is distrustful of alliances with less powerful countries, which he has characterized as freeloading off America’s wealth and power.

In the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump has suggested withdrawing from NATO and pulling troops back from longstanding bases in countries like South Korea and Germany. His threats are a precise echo of a speech he gave in New Hampshire in 1987, declaring that the United States had been “kicked around” by ungrateful allies in Asia and the Middle East.

In domestic matters, Mr. Trump’s main impulse is toward hard-line law and order. He is indifferent to civil liberties and contemptuous of objections to racial targeting. For decades, he has described the country as harried by rampant crime, and has typically placed blame with different nonwhite communities, including urban blacks, Hispanic immigrants and Native Americans.

Long before he called for banning Muslim immigration and torturing terrorism suspects, Mr. Trump argued for unleashing the New York Police Department to attack social unrest with a mailed fist. He spoke approvingly of the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square. He recently expressed admiration for Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s autocratic president, and Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, whom he praised as tough on terrorism.

He is not the first American businessman with presidential aspirations to be drawn to strongman government: Hearst and Ford, the anti-Semitic car manufacturer who considered a presidential bid in 1924, both maintained cordial and even admiring relations with emerging fascist regimes in Italy and Germany.

Charles Murray, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Mr. Trump’s autocratic tendencies placed him well outside the conservative intellectual mainstream.

“The word fascist is simply thrown around too easily, and so I don’t want to use that word. But part of Trumpism is the man on the white horse,” Mr. Murray said. “That’s neither left nor right. That’s authoritarian, and it’s really, really scary.”

And he could win.

Short Takes

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz steps down.

California wildfire doubles in size.

Trump could cause record turnout of Muslim-American voters.

IOC decides against complete ban of Russian team.

Chris Froome wins third Tour de France.

The Tigers had a losing weekend against the White Sox.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Reading

A Good Pick — Charles P. Pierce on the selection of Sen. Tim Kaine as the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

The least surprising moment in the 2016 presidential campaign came down on Friday night, just in time to stop the ceaseless vamping on cable television (Note to Chris Matthews: Using Hugh Hewitt to kill time simultaneously kills your audience, in some cases literally): Hillary Rodham Clinton will run for president with Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.

I will get my personal feelings out of the way first. I am overjoyed. Over Tim Kaine? Hell, no. I am overjoyed because my senior senator will remain my senior senator, ya greedy bastids.

OK, now for the rest of you.

It’s a good pick. It’s a solid pick. It’s the kind of pick that Bill Clinton made in 1992 and Barack Obama made in 2008. It’s nowhere near as risky a pick as John F. Kennedy made in 1960. It’s not the kind of weird pick that Richard Nixon made in 1968, or the kind of misguided pick that Al Gore made in 2000. It’s not the kind of process-of-elimination, who-will-hold-my-straitjacket pick that the opposing party made this week. In fact, I’m more concerned that my judgment on such matters has been so warped by the political wild kingdom I experienced in here that HRC could have chosen to run with a cup of warm cocoa and I might have applauded until my palms bled.

The most intriguing part of the pick to me is not that Kaine speaks Spanish. (Geez, TV people, enough with that noise. It’s not like he learned differential calculus on the back of a coal shovel.) What’s intriguing is that he learned it as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras, taking a year off from Harvard Law School to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. This shows a commitment more to the Catholicism of Papa Francesco than to that of the retro Papist opposition. And, seriously, does anyone doubt the presidential candidate’s dedication to the constitutional right of choice? I seriously doubt that Tim Kaine is going to go rogue on this issue. And, besides, the party itself has left the whole personally-opposed-but-OK dodge far behind. The Supreme Court is one vote away from a solid pro-choice majority and, even skating one justice down, it’s pushing back hard against the SLAPP suit strategy employed by several states. Nothing Tim Kaine can possibly do will reverse that.

Trade is more problematic. He did vote to fast-track the awful TPP deal, and the optics on that are not good, but they only appear seriously bad if you take He, Trump’s blathering about trade deals seriously and, therefore, think enough progressives believe that bushwah to make a dent in the Democratic base in November. I don’t. We’ll see. Otherwise, he may be boring, but he’s not timid. He fought tobacco in a tobacco state, and coal in a mining state and, in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, he fought for gun-control in a state that has more than its share of NRA members. As Ari Berman pointed out on the electric Twitter machine after Kaine’s announcement on Friday night, Kaine was fighting for open housing in Richmond freaking Virginia when He, Trump was refusing to rent to African Americans in NYC. The fact remains that if, on the basis of his record, Tim Kaine is considered a centrist, then the center of the Democratic party has moved considerably to the left since HRC’s husband first ran for president.

The obvious downside is that it puts a Senate seat in play in a deeply purple, deeply vital state, and that problem was seriously exacerbated by another event that took place on Thursday, far from the convention in Cleveland or the rallies in Florida. In April, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe signed executive orders restoring the voting rights to some 200,000 Virginians who had completed their excursions through the criminal justice system. On Friday, three months to the day from McAuliffe’s announcement and only a few hours before HRC called Kaine to ask him to join the ticket, the Virginia Supreme Court blew that up, issuing a 4-3 decision that invalidated McAuliffe’s executive orders and, according to calculations done by Berman in The Nation, thereby taking away the voting rights of nearly a quarter of the state’s African American electorate. The glass is half-full if you believe that Tim Kaine is strong enough to keep Virginia in the Clinton column. The glass is half-empty if you believe that, not only can he not do that, but also that with this decision, neither can whatever Democrat runs for Kaine’s Senate seat. The Virginia court’s decision is the real joker in this deck.

I expect the usual suspects to be dissatisfied. I expect the usual suspects to raise a kind of hell for a couple of days. I expect the usual suspects who cover the usual suspects to try and make a Trump-Cruz blood feud out of Sanders-Clinton over this decision. I expect that all of this is wrong. Anybody who lived in Cleveland this past week would feel the same. I don’t mind looking both ways when I cross the street for a while.

Donald’s Turn — Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune on Trump’s 11 o’clock number.

Thursday night Donald J. Trump delivered the angriest 11 o’clock number in the history of American show business. If you don’t know that phrase, it’s a useful one. In the old days Broadway musicals began at 8:30 and wrapped up at 11:15 or 11:30. The 11 o’clock number was the biggie near the end, usually reserved for a major character on the threshold of a revelation or a breakdown.

Think “Rose’s Turn” from “Gypsy.” Last night, as he accepted the Republication presidential nomination in Cleveland, it was “Donald’s Turn,” this time for him! For him! For him!

“I alone can fix it,” he said. “It” meant America and all its problems, the “humiliations” it has suffered, the “horrible” trade deals, Obama’s divisive and racist rhetoric (really?), the rampant “crime and violence” that afflicts us. He will fire it all.

“Dark” was the word much of Twitter couldn’t get away from last night, characterizing Trump’s tone and content. It seems like a weak descriptor for what was actually being sold. Business Insider and LA radio host Josh Barro tweeted: “Normally, Trump has a magnetic personality that lets him get away with things. He disarms you by transparently having fun. Not tonight.”

Come November, the speech we heard Thursday night will be reassessed either as a success or a failure. Come November, it may well prove the naysayers wrong in retrospect, as they’ve been wrong all along when it comes to the global branding whiz, bankruptcy-prone developer and famous star of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

Breaking it down, the speech was a methodical, monomaniacally intense rant, delivered by a human repository of angry-mob discontent. Early on, when Trump uttered words such as “humbly” (as in “humbly” accepting the nomination) or “peace” or “warmth,” he took no audible cue from the meaning of those words. He looked and sounded like he was ready to pop.

When he promised that nobody in favor of “violence,” “hatred” or “oppression” would be allowed to enter his United States, if he was elected, it was not easy to tune out his own campaign’s tendency over the past 12 months to stoke the most violent, hate-filled and oppressive instincts in his base.

When he screamed “I love you all!” at the end, he sounded as if he were saying “I can barely contain my bile!” Only when Trump went off-teleprompter for a few ad-libbed fills (“BUH-lieve me,” or “horrible … just horrible”) did he sound like his disarming self, the Trump who has proven so politically effective thus far.

Campaigning on a stern “law and order” platform did the trick for Richard Nixon in 1968. Trump’s speech referenced “law and order” more than once, telling the people, the marginalized, laid-off, passed-over populace: “I am your voice.” By speech’s end Thursday, that voice sounded like a vengeful growl. But then, as convention speaker Tom Barrack said earlier in the evening: “An animal in the jungle … that is Donald.”

In “Rose’s Turn,” the greatest 11 o’clock number Broadway ever wrote (Jule Styne, music; Stephen Sondheim, lyrics), the ferocious stage mother originated by Ethel Merman busts loose, her resentments and regrets and grievances pouring forth in a catharsis combining elements of striptease, revenge and breakdown. It’s an angry number. Conspicuously lacking music, though weirdly Trump’s choice of outro music was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,“ Donald’s turn turned the spotlight on a one-man, 76-minute show performed by the emblem, and beneficiary, of this casually brutal American moment.

Big Words — Humor from Andy Borowitz.

LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking angered supporters of Donald J. Trump on Monday by responding to a question about the billionaire with a baffling array of long words.

Speaking to a television interviewer in London, Hawking called Trump “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator,” a statement that many Trump supporters believed was intentionally designed to confuse them.

Moments after Hawking made the remark, Google reported a sharp increase in searches for the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking.”

“For a so-called genius, this was an epic fail,” Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said. “If Professor Hawking wants to do some damage, maybe he should try talking in English next time.”

Later in the day, Hawking attempted to clarify his remark about the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, telling a reporter, “Trump bad man. Real bad man.”

 Doonesbury — What was that?

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Speech Only A Dictator Would Deliver

If you stayed up to watch Donald Trump deliver his nearly 90-minute harangue, I admire you for your courage and your ability to control your gag reflex.  All I did was read the transcript and catch a couple of clips and I’ve had enough.

What it all came down to is that Donald Trump told America and the world that we are in a hell of a mess and he is the only one who can fix it.

That has been the message of every dictator — from the left or the right — for time out of mind. Every one of them has cited facts they claim to be true yet are easily refuted.  Every one of them has found a scapegoat to blame for the problems their citizens faced and accused them of treachery or worse.  Every one of them has claimed to be the voice of the people, and every one of them, whether they’re standing on the stage at Nuremberg, the balcony in Rome, the wall of the Kremlin, the plaza in Havana, or the gates of the Forbidden City, has risen to power or seized it with that messianic claim, and every one of them has done it at the expense of lives, fortunes, and freedom.  Fortunately no one has ever stood on the steps of the Capitol in Washington and delivered a speech like that, and if we are to live and grow and survive as a country, we never will hear it.

Mr. Trump’s speech was all about him, how “I” will do this, “I” will stop that, “I” will make some other thing happen.  It was rarely “we,” and when it was, it was about what his administration — his government — will do to others.

But this is a nation of “We.”  “We hold these truths to be self-evident,”  “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,”  “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  The echos of Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt were lost in the bombast and narcissism of this belligerent bully who knows nothing of true compassion for anyone other than himself or what would feed his ego.

The one thing every dictator knows is how to feed fear and divisiveness.  They know that it is far more easier to exploit our weaknesses than call upon us to work together; to accuse rather than encourage, to divide rather than multiply, and deliver on “What’s in it for me?” rather than “Ask not what your country can do for you.”

It’s hard to resist the siren call of a dictator: Let me be the one to solve all your problems, real or imagined, even if what I promise will cost you that which you hold most precious; not just your freedom but your sense of honor and dignity of living in a nation that has placed unity and service and the freedom to be who you are without inciting hatred or fear of the unknown.  But what you saw or read from the stage last night in Cleveland was not a call to the nation that holds those values.  It was a call to give them over to someone who cannot even convince himself that being a leader in America is not about him and his glorification and the trappings of power but the dedication to the finding the best in every one of us.  That is the one thing you did not hear from that stage in Cleveland last night.

Trump Stage 07-22-16

Thursday, July 21, 2016

“There Will Be Blood”

Well, Donald Trump did say that there would be anger and disruption at the Republican convention, but I don’t think he meant that it would be at the hands of Ted Cruz.

The Republican convention erupted into tumult on Wednesday night as the bitter primary battle between Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz reignited unexpectedly, crushing hopes that the party could project unity.

In the most electric moment of the convention, a clamor broke out as it became clear that Mr. Cruz — in a prime-time address from center stage — was not going to endorse Mr. Trump. It was a pointed snub on the eve of Mr. Trump’s formal acceptance speech.

As hundreds of delegates chanted “Vote for Trump!” and “Say it!” Mr. Cruz tried to dismiss the outburst as “enthusiasm of the New York delegation” — only to have Mr. Trump himself suddenly appear in the back of the convention hall. Virtually every head in the room seemed to turn from Mr. Cruz to Mr. Trump, who was stone-faced and clearly angry as he egged on delegates by pumping his fist.

If this was TV, we’d cut to a starkly-lit hallway in the basement of the convention center where a maintenance worker would come across a bloodied corpse, sinister music would be heard, and a voice-over intones, “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups….”

How’s that party unity thing working out for you, GOP?

Short Takes

Texas voter I.D. law struck down.

Trump employee admits to plagiarizing Melina Trump’s speech.

Secret Service investigating Trump advisor who advocated executing Hillary Clinton.

Turkey issues ban on professional travel for academics in wake of coup attempt.

R.I.P. Garry Marshall; producer, actor, and director of Pretty Woman.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Nightmare On Lake Erie

At what point will the Republicans wake up and realize, “Holy shit, we’ve just nominated Freddie Krueger“?

Seriously, though, and in spite of the fact that the New York Times gives Hillary Clinton 3-to-1 odds of winning in November (on the other hand, Nate Silver notes that Clinton’s lead now is the same as John Kerry’s was at this time in 2004), I cannot remember a time when a presidential candidate actually had me frightened for the future not just of this country or my personal life and safety, but that of the planet.

It truly frightens me that 45% of the country can look at Donald Trump and then place their lives, fortunes, and whatever else they value in the trust of someone who clearly is unqualified to lead a one-car parade, let alone a country and by default the most powerful nation on Earth.  And if it really happens, I seriously doubt that the America we will see in four years will look or behave as it does now, and not in a good way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Steal From The Best

Full disclosure:  I am not watching the Republican convention.  In fact, I’m not watching anything remotely connected with it this week.  Instead, I am catching up on episodes of Law & Order: SVU, Castle, and NCIS that I have missed over the years in order to avoid the shitshow going on in Cleveland because hypertension is a killer.

I am, however, following the news and this little tidbit got my attention because I’m a writer and the worst thing you can do is steal someone else’s words and try to pass them on as your own.

Via Esme Cribb at TPM:

In her prime time speech at the Republican National Convention Monday evening, Donald Trump’s wife Melania appeared to lift significant portions from a speech delivered by now-First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention where her husband Barack Obama was first nominated for President.

First noticed by Jarrett Hill, here is the relevant segment of Melania Trump’s remarks:

From a young age my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life. That your work is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them. I am fortunate for my heritage but also for where it brought me today.

And here’s an excerpt of Michelle Obama’s “One Nation” speech from 2008:

And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

Plagiarism is nothing new to the Trump empire.  Whole sections of a speech Mr. Trump gave back in March were lifted nearly verbatim from a speech by Dr. Ben Carson, one of his vanquished opponents for the nomination.  (He wasn’t good enough to be president but he was good enough to steal from, I guess.)  In the case of Mrs. Trump’s handlers ripping off Michelle Obama, if they’re going to rip off an inspirational speech by a potential First Lady, they certainly chose good material.

None of this is a big surprise.  The entire Trump campaign — and I’m not talking about just his run for the White House — has been nothing but bullshit and bamboozlement built on a foundation of deceit and lies (see below), so why would this speech or anything else presented by the Trumps be any different?  It’s worked in the past, and they have every reason to believe it will work now.

Ghostwriter In Despair

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker profiles Tony Schwartz who ghostwrote Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” and regrets every minute of it.

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”


If Trump is elected President, he warned, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them.”

Read the whole article and pass it on.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Short Takes

More carnage: Three Baton Rouge policemen killed in ambush.

Two people are detained in France for truck attack.

Clinton maintains lead over Trump in national poll.

Turkey’s leader emerges stronger after coup attempt.

Cleveland prepares for protests during RNC.

The Tigers won 2 of 3 against the Royals.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Reading

Mike Pence vs. Women — Joan Walsh in The Nation on Trump’s VP pick.

It looks like Donald Trump blinked.

After a 13-month battle with the Republican establishment in which he won most every skirmish, Trump appears to be acting responsibly, as his campaign confirmed the news that he’d chosen mild-mannered Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his vice-presidential nominee. It was hard to believe that was Trump’s first choice. There had been lots of reporting that he wanted Newt Gingrich (why not, God, why not?) and, despite New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s legal baggage (plus Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s mortal grudge against Christie for sending his father to jail), it seemed like Trump found in Christie a kindred soul/bully as well. But he was by most accounts scheduled to introduce the white-haired establishment favorite, Mike Pence, at an event in Trump Tower on Friday.

Then came the horrific attack in Nice, France, and late Thursday Trump announced he would postpone his VP announcement, presumably out of respect for the victims. (By the way, the Tour de France went on.) Then he said he’d take the weekend to continue mulling his choice, before tweeting official confirmation of his selection on Friday morning. If this is how Donald Trump makes decisions in real time, he is not looking terribly presidential.

Putting aside the drama of the past 24 hours, it’s worth looking closely at Pence, because he tells us a few things, too—about what counts as “establishment” in today’s GOP.

If Trump thinks he’s getting a running mate who can appeal to the center and swing voters, he’s wrong about that. Pence is so far right when it comes to women’s and LGBT issues, he makes Trump look like a Democrat. Frankly, he’s a smooth-talking Todd Akin.

In Congress, Pence co-sponsored a bill that would have redefined rape and limited federal funding for abortion to women who suffered “forcible rape”—what Akin famously described as “legitimate rape” when he doomed his 2012 Senate bill. Pence is also the guy who began the GOP’s ugly and so far unsuccessful crusade to defund Planned Parenthood, back in 2007. “He’s the only one I know of who has been so completely obsessed with Planned Parenthood,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said back then. “This just seems to be an enormous focus of his.” Of course, Pence got more company in the Tea Party Congress of 2011, and that year he threatened to shut down the government over continued Planned Parenthood funding.

Since becoming governor in 2013, Pence has signed various anti-abortion bills and succeeded in defunding Planned Parenthood in his state. That helped lead to a devastating resurgence of HIV/AIDS, since Planned Parenthood was one of a few providers of HIV testing in the state.

Unfortunately, there’s not much daylight between Trump and Pence on the issue of Planned Parenthood. Although daughter Ivanka reportedly got Trump to say nice things about the group’s women’s-health work earlier this year, both he and Pence have said that if Planned Parenthood wants to continue providing primary care for women, and crucial screenings for breast and cervical cancers, it should stop providing abortions.

“If Planned Parenthood wants to be involved in providing counseling services and HIV testing, they ought not be in the business of providing abortions,” Pence told a Vox reporter. “As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them.” Sounds like Trump: “Millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood. But we’re not going to allow, and we’re not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood, and we understand that and I’ve said it loud and clear.”

Also, Trump has promised to punish women for getting abortions (and then flip-flopped); Pence has actually done so. In Indianapolis, 30-year-old Purvi Patel was prosecuted for using the pills doctors prescribe for early pregnancy termination allegedly later in her term. Her conviction is being appealed.

Of course, Pence is probably best known nationally for supporting one of the nation’s toughest so-called “Religious Freedom” laws, and then backing down when big businesses from Apple to SalesForce to Angie’s List said they’d curtail commerce in his state. Pence says he “fixed” the law, but LGBT advocates don’t entirely buy it. Conservatives do, however, and they consider Pence a traitor for bowing to business.

Pence is an odd choice, for many reasons: He’s got low approval ratings in his home state and faces a tough reelection battle. He supports free trade and opposes Trump’s Muslim ban. The Indiana governor endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz just before the state’s crucial primary in May, but said wishy-washy nice things about Trump, too. When Trump crushed Cruz in Indiana, Pence got on the Trump train. He was ready to move up front and sit alongside the leader. But now he’s sitting in a New York hotel waiting for an announcement that may never come.

Reportedly, Trump was angered by the leaks about Pence on Thursday and believed they came from the Indiana camp. For a while on Thursday, Newt Gingrich apparently still thought he was in the race; he came out last night with a proposal to “deport” all Muslims from the United States if they won’t denounce Sharia law—perhaps to remind Trump that Pence opposes such restrictions on Muslims.

Of course, journalists hoped Trump would pick either the voluble Gingrich or the combative Christie, to make the race more fun. I don’t think Hillary Clinton much cares which of the men Trump chooses; they will all send women voters into the Democratic camp even faster than they’ve been running from Trump.

Turkey’s Purge — Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

The coup in Turkey is over, and now the purge begins.

On Saturday, Turkish soldiers and police—those who had remained loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the uncertain hours of the previous day—were rounding up their enemies across the security services, reportedly arresting thousands. There will be thousands more. In the high-stakes world of Turkish politics—nominally democratic but played with authoritarian ferocity—justice for the losers will be swift and brutal.

The remarkable thing about Friday’s coup attempt is not that it failed, but that, after years of Erdoğan’s relentless purging of his opposition, there was a faction inside the Turkish military strong enough to mount one at all.

The confrontation was a long time coming. When Erdoğan first became Prime Minister, in 2003, he was the Islamic world’s great democratic hope, a leader of enormous vitality who would show the world that an avowedly Islamist politician could lead a stable democracy and carry on as a member of NATO, too.

Those hopes evaporated quickly. Erdoğan, who was elected Turkey’s president in 2014, has taken a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook, using democratic institutions to legitimize his rule while crushing his opponents, with an eye to ultimately smothering democracy itself. Over the past decade, Erdoğan has silenced, marginalized, or crushed nearly anyone in the country who might oppose him, including newspaper editors, university professors, aid workers, and dissident politicians. (What an irony that Erdoğan, who has imprisoned so many journalists, and gone to great lengths to censor Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, may have saved his Presidency by using FaceTime to make an early Saturday appearance on a Turkish television news channel.) President Obama and other Western leaders, seeing Erdoğan as a bulwark against chaos, largely gave him a pass. In his most recent grab for authoritarian powers, Erdoğan pushed through a law that stripped members of parliament of immunity from prosecution, a measure that his critics fear, with good reason, that he will use to remove the few remaining lawmakers who still oppose him.

Then there’s the military. Since the Turkish republic was founded, in 1923, the county’s generals have imagined themselves the ultimate arbiters of the its politics, stepping into power—sometimes savagely—whenever they felt the government had become either too leftist or too Islamic. (After the military overthrew a democratically elected government in 1960, the generals executed the Prime Minister.) The military has had a special contempt for Erdoğan, whom they regarded as a dangerous Islamist—but they have proven no match for him.

In 2007, Erdoğan’s henchmen initiated a series of show trials, known collectively as Sledgehammer, in which fabricated evidence was used to remove the top tier of the Turkish officer corps. Hundreds were sent to prison, and the military itself seemed banished from politics forever. Indeed, Erdoğan must have been surprised that there was still a dissident faction of the armed forces large enough to try to bring him down. On Friday, the coup’s organizers didn’t even have the sense to detain the man they were trying to overthrow, and they apparently never seriously contemplated shooting their way into the palace. (After a coup in 1980, the military killed and imprisoned tens of thousands.) In the wake of their failure, the military will be soon be under Erdoğan’s total control, like virtually every other institution in the country.

In his dramatic appearance at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport on Friday night, Erdoğan blamed the insurrection on the exiled cleric Fatullah Gulen, a reclusive figure who lives in the Poconos. “I have a message for Pennsylvania,’’ Erdoğan said, a reference that must have baffled many non-Turks. “You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country.”

Gulen, an aging cleric who heads one of the world’s largest Islamic orders, fled Turkey in 1999, when it appeared that the military was going to arrest him. For years, he was one of Erdoğan’s closest allies, helping him in his rise to power. While Gulen preaches a message of love and tolerance, there has often been something mysterious about him and his followers, who do not readily advertise either their affiliation or their intentions. Over the years, Gulen’s followers quietly found positions within many Turkish institutions, particularly the courts and police. (It was the Gulenists who led the show trials against the generals and the press.) In 2008, James Jeffrey, the American ambassador, wrote a memo about the Gulenist infiltration of the Turkish National Police. “The assertion that the T.N.P is controlled by the Gulenists is impossible to confirm, but we have found no one who disputes it,” Jeffrey said.

Then, in 2013, Gulen and Erdoğan split, in what appears to be part of a naked struggle for power. In the years since, Erdoğan has purged the courts and police of thousands of men and women presumed to be Gulen loyalists. It’s hard to know whether Gulen was behind Friday’s attempted putsch, but at this point it seems unlikely. While Gulen’s followers predominated in the security services, they were not generally believed to be a large force inside the military. It seems more likely that the officers who led the revolt represented the remnant of the military’s old secular order. Now they’re finished.

During his speech last night at the Istanbul airport, Erdoğan referred to the attempted coup as a “gift from God.” Erdoğan is usually a precise speaker, but in this case, perhaps in his excitement, he showed his cards. With the coup attempt thwarted, he will no doubt seize the moment. In recent months, Erdogan has made little secret of his desire to rewrite the constitution to give himself near total power. There will be no stopping him now.

Listen Up — Paula Span on new technology to help those of you with hearing issues.

An estimated one zillion older people have a problem like mine.

First: We notice age-related hearing loss. A much-anticipated report on hearing health from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine last month put the prevalence at more than 45 percent of those aged 70 to 74, and more than 80 percent among those over 85.

Then: We do little or nothing about it. Fewer than 20 percent of those with hearing loss use hearing aids.

I’ve written before about the reasons. High prices ($2,500 and up for a decent hearing aid, and most people need two). Lack of Medicare reimbursement, because the original 1965 law creating Medicare prohibits coverage. Time and hassle. Stigma.

Both the National Academies and the influential President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technologyhave proposed pragmatic steps to make hearing technology more accessible and affordable.

But until there’s progress on those, many of us with mild to moderate hearing loss may consider a relatively inexpensive alternative: personal sound amplification products, or P.S.A.P.s. They offer some promise — and some perils, too.

Unlike for a hearing aid, you don’t need an audiologist to obtain a P.S.A.P. You see these gizmos advertised on the back pages of magazines or on sale at drugstore chains. You can buy them online.

But they go virtually unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That leaves them “without the design control requirements, performance standards, technical standards or labeling requirements that apply to devices,” the National Academies report said. By law, manufacturers can’t even label or advertise P.S.A.P.s as intended to help with hearing loss.

The lack of regulation may foster faster innovation — F.D.A. approvals take time — but also creates consumer chaos.

New digital features — some P.S.A.P.s use Bluetooth technology to customize devices, and some will actually test your hearing — are sprouting like dandelions. Yet you can spend $70 or $700 on a pair with no simple way to tell helpful products from the worse-than-useless.

“The current market is pretty much a free-for-all,” said Dr. Frank Lin, an otolaryngologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a member of the National Academies committee.

“Some P.S.A.P. companies are very good, founded by former hearing aid executives and engineers,” Dr. Lin said. “The devices you see in Walmart for 40 bucks are terrible.”

Which P.S.A.P.s are the good ones? A Johns Hopkins audiologist, Nicholas Reed, has run electroacoustical tests on several devices marketed online, measuring their output or gain (translation: volume), frequency ranges and clarity, the three factors most important in helping people hear.

He has also tested them with users with mild to moderate hearing loss. (These devices won’t help people with severe hearing loss.)

Placing people in hearing booths with some background noise, he compared their hearing with various P.S.A.P.s to how well they could hear with no hearing device and with a midpriced $2,500 hearing aid.

Dr. Reed has tested just 29 participants so far, he cautioned, and real-world results will vary. Still, he and his colleagues were impressed with three P.S.A.P.s.

The Soundhawk, which operates with a smartphone, performed almost as well as the hearing aid, with a list price of $399. The CS50+, made by Soundworld Solutions, and the Bean T-Coil, from Etymotic, worked nearly as well and list for about $350.

The researchers also tested the MSA 30X, available at drugstores for $30, and found it actually increased distortion. “A pure waste of your money,” Dr. Reed said.

Dr. Lin’s research group is conducting two pilot studies that fit patients with P.S.A.P.s, and “we’re seeing very positive results,” he said.

Dr. Reed will present his findings at the International Hearing Aid Research Conference next month.

Ultimately, both the President’s Council and the National Academies committee recommend that regulators establish a new product category for these over-the-counter devices, sometimes called “hearables.” They’ve urged the F.D.A. to set specifications that ensure safety and effectiveness, and to require that devices meet certain manufacturing standards.

Then consumers can buy them with greater confidence, avoiding the “bundling” system, buttressed by state and federal laws, that makes hearing aids available only through audiologists.

(The exception: You can already buy some hearing aids online, but sometimes the only difference between them and the same devices marketed as P.S.A.P.s is their labeling.)

Industry groups have objected to changing the current setup. But the proposal resembles the way many consumers now buy eyeglasses: Get a prescription from an optician or ophthalmologist, then comparison-shop in stores or online for prices and styles.

Hearing devices require more customization and instruction than glasses. And while glasses can correct vision, no device fully restores normal hearing.

But while F.D.A.-approved hearing aids fitted by audiologists may remain the gold standard for treating hearing loss, P.S.A.P.s may have a place. “Let the consumer find the device online, and then let the audiologist charge an hourly rate to fit it,” Dr. Reed said.

Already, he added, “a lot of savvy people are doing this for themselves,” patching together systems that use over-the-counter electronics and audio equipment.

Richard Einhorn, a Manhattan composer, suddenly lost most of his hearing because of a virus in 2010. He owns high-end hearing aids, but like many users, still struggles in noisy environments like restaurants.

His solution: He removes his hearing aids and turns to his iPhone. “The iPhone has fantastic audio specifications, on par with some professional gear,” said Mr. Einhorn, 63, a board member of the Hearing Loss Association of America.

He relies on an F.D.A.-certified hearing app, the Jacoti ListenApp; a plug-in directional microphone (he uses the Shure Motiv MV88); and quality earphones. (Disclosure: He serves as a consultant for Jacoti.)

Thus equipped, “you can hear really well in situations where even a hearing aid doesn’t work so well,” Mr. Einhorn said.

You’d hope that Medicare would eventually reconsider its policy on covering hearing devices, a step the National Academies report also urged.

The aging of the population means many more Americans will confront age-related hearing loss, and researchers have shown that it contributes not only to social isolation, but to increased risks of falls, poor health and hospitalization, cognitive decline and dementia.

Yet treating hearing loss has been largely an all-or-nothing proposition. You pay an audiologist lots of money, or you blast your TV and ask friends to repeat themselves. A third option, F.D.A.-regulated P.S.A.P.s, might represent a simpler, cheaper solution.

“Do you have to put in a hearing device that’s 100 percent perfect?” Dr. Reed said. “Maybe 85 percent is enough to improve your life.”

Doonesbury — Wear this to remind yourself and others.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Two Tall Women

It’s interesting to note that the two people who have generated the most fulmination out of Donald Trump have two things in common: neither of them are running for president against him, and they’re both women.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) cheerfully went after Mr. Trump and he went up like a Roman candle, hurling insults and racist nicknames back at her, much to her delight.  Now Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has ventured an opinion on him and Mr. Trump’s response is to question her sanity and demand that she be taken off the court.

No man, not even one running in the primaries, generated such vehemence and eye-popping, vein-throbbing responses.  Mr. Trump dismissed his male challengers much in the same way he sends back an undercooked steak.  But strong women really get under his skin — they always have, apparently — and when they stand up and give back as good as he gives, he’s a sight to behold.

I’ll leave it to the psychologists among you to come up with the reasons for this visceral behavior, but it really does make you wonder about what exactly it is about women that sets him off.

And now he has to run against one in the general election.

Dictating A Message

Even a cursory stroll through history will show you how dictators come to power.  They find something scary — usually an abstract like Communism or “those people” — and make you either afraid of them or threaten you with them.  They invariably lie about the threat, blowing it way out of proportion, or just make shit up; whatever it takes to scare you.  Then they tell you that they are the only person who can save you and the world from them.  That’s human nature; in small doses, that’s how advertising works.  And you buy into it.  That’s how you win elections.

That’s also how Donald Trump won the Republican primary and how he’s campaigning for president.

Josh Marshall:

Trump claimed that people – “some people” – called for a moment of silence for mass killer Micah Johnson, the now deceased mass shooter who killed five police officers in Dallas on Thursday night. There is no evidence this ever happened. Searches of the web and social media showed no evidence. Even Trump’s campaign co-chair said today that he can’t come up with any evidence that it happened. As in the case of the celebrations over the fall of the twin towers, even to say there’s ‘no evidence’ understates the matter. This didn’t happen. Trump made it up.

The language is important: “When somebody called for a moment of silence to this maniac that shot the five police, you just see what’s going on. It’s a very, very sad situation.”

Then later at the Indiana rally: “The other night you had 11 cities potentially in a blow-up stage. Marches all over the United States—and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac! And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer!”

A would-be strong man, an authoritarian personality, isn’t just against disorder and violence. They need disorder and violence. That is their raison d’etre, it is the problem that they are purportedly there to solve. The point bears repeating: authoritarian figures require violence and disorder. Look at the language. “11 cities potentially in a blow up stage” .. “Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac!” … “And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer.”

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, if you translate the German, the febrile and agitated language of ‘hatred’, ‘anger’, ‘maniac’ … this is the kind of florid and incendiary language Adolf Hitler used in many of his speeches. Note too the actual progression of what Trump said: “Marches all over the United States – and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac!” (emphasis added).

The clear import of this fusillade of words is that the country is awash in militant protests that were inspired by Micah Johnson. “Started by …”

We’re used to so much nonsense and so many combustible tirades from Trump that we become partly inured to them. We also don’t slow down and look at precisely what he’s saying. What he’s saying here is that millions of African-Americans are on the streets inspired by and protesting on behalf of a mass murderer of white cops.

This is not simply false. It is the kind of wild racist incitement that puts whole societies in danger. And this man wants to be president.

Donald Trump is certainly not the first presidential candidate to use this tactic, even in my own lifetime.  Richard Nixon, George Wallace, and Barry Goldwater all tried to scare the electorate by pointing at Others and warning of their nefarious schemes, but only Gov. Wallace emanated the whiff of fascism and hatred.  Nixon was tortured by his own self-doubt and paranoid demons to embrace the ego-centrism that being a dictator requires, and Barry Goldwater couldn’t keep up the act.  Ronald Reagan, even in his most cynical, couldn’t pull off the scary-face agitator, and I imagine that if he were around today he’d be horrified by the pessimism and America-bashing that Mr. Trump indulges in in order to get people to see him as their Savior.

He’s already proved that there’s no lie too big, no threat too small, no insult too outrageous to hurl to win the election.  And he doesn’t even have the formal nomination yet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Short Takes

China is told to give up claims to the South China Sea.

Several hundred dead on civil war in South Sudan.

Attorney General Lynch questioned by House panel on Clinton e-mail decision.

Elizabeth Warren invited to speak at the first night of the Democratic convention.

Wall Street hit record highs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Bernie Sanders will campaign with Hillary Clinton today in New Hampshire.

The rally, which will be held at Portsmouth High School, in a state where Mr. Sanders defeated Mrs. Clinton by 22 percentage points in a hard-fought February primary, is the result of weeks of private negotiations and policy debates between the Sanders and Clinton camps. While the endorsement event is widely expected to happen, Mrs. Clinton had to reschedule two recent events, one with President Obama and the other with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., because of the shootings in Orlando, Fla., and Dallas.

I expect this event to be bigfooted by the memorial service in Dallas where President Obama will speak.  Still, it’s good that they’re getting together.

My one question is how will my very adamant pro-Bernie/anti-Hillary friends on Facebook take this?

Bayh Back

Wow, two days in a row that Indiana politics make the news.

Democrat Baron Hill is dropping out of the Indiana Senate race and will be replaced as the Democratic nominee by former Sen. Evan Bayh, upending the race in a state Republicans expected to hold easily this fall.

Bayh, who is also a former governor of Indiana, still has approximately $9.3 million in a federal campaign account that has sat nearly dormant since he left the Senate in 2010.

By all that’s important, Indiana should be a hard-core GOP state, but for some reason it can’t seem to find competent Republicans to run for the Senate.  And if Mr. Bayh should win — and he’s never lost a race — that will give Indiana two Democratic senators.

If Mr. Bayh wins, he’ll replace Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring, and Mr. Bayh would be back in the seat he gave up that was won by Mr. Coats in 2010.  And when Mr. Bayh won election to the Senate the first time, he took the seat occupied by Dan Coats.  The Senate office building should put in a revolving door.

This also makes the Senate much more in play for the Democrats to take over.

Good Old Benito

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, one of the folks being vetted by Donald Trump as a vice presidential candidate, did a 180 on his pro-choice stand, saying basically “oh, I mean I’m pro-life.”

Fine; that puts him in the same place as Mr. Trump both in terms of that particular point of view and his “flexibility” on issues.  But Josh Marshall also dug up another interesting bit of information about the general: he co-authored a book with Michael Ledeen.

Who’s that?

Ledeen is genuinely a man of ideas and letters. It’s just that the ideas tend to be a bit evil or post-moral in a functionally equivalent way. Ledeen’s key intellectual influence was the Italian fascism or neo-fascism he came into contact with during his time in Italy during the 1970s. Without getting too deep into the story, Ledeen was part of a movement to distinguish ‘fascism’ as a set of ideas, an intellectual movement from the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini.


In a fascinating touch, back in May Ledeen was attacking critics like Robert Kagan who were calling Trump ‘fascist’ but, in a notable and predictable twist, on the theory that Trump wasn’t really good enough for the fascist label. “For Mr. Kagan (surprisingly and disappointingly praised by Bret Stephens),” writes Ledeen, “fascism is little more than any political movement led by a charismatic strong man … Mr. Kagan doesn’t discuss the revolutionary aspect of fascism. Italian fascists claimed to be able to unleash the creative powers of a “new fascist man,” while the Nazis advocated the superiority of the Aryan race. Neither concept is to be found anywhere in Trumpism either in theory or practice.”

Maybe Mr. Trump will make Michael Ledeen Secretary of Transportation…or at least the head of Amtrak.